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The Terrafugia Transition - the first viable flying car?

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July 25, 2006

The Terrafugia Transition - the first viable flying car?

The Terrafugia Transition - the first viable flying car?

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July 26, 2006 An interesting new flying car is being launched this week at Oshkosh. The Transition is a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) designed to make general aviation more practical for personal transportation. From start-up company Terrafugi, the Transition drives like a car on public roads and can transition into an aircraft at the nearest airport by lowering its 27-foot wings and taking off. As an aircraft it has a top speed of 130mph, a range of 500 miles and can carry a payload of 430 pounds. One stop gives you over a thousand miles of range inside eight hours. Then you land and fold up the wings and you’re back on the road. As Terrafugia Chief Operating Officer Anna Mracek explains, deposits are being taken at Oshkosh, “our anticipated purchase price is $148k, and a deposit of 5% of that anticipated price will secure your place in line, but not guarantee that exact price.” The Transition delivers 30 mpg in either car or plane mode and promises a true integrated roadable aircraft at an economically compelling price. A prototype is being constructed and deliveries will start in 2009. The Transition will be capable of driving at normal highway speeds, flying at speeds that approach the light sport aircraft limit, and park in a standard garage. The CEO and CTO of Terrafugia is Carl Dietrich – note that name as he’s been incredibly impressive in everything he’s ever attempted and this is an ambitious play. Carl will receive his PhD from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics this year. Carl received both his SB and SM degrees from the same department, winning all four out of four design competitions available to him then the golden globe for entrepreneurs, the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize which annually recognizes one student for outstanding innovations.

Dietrich is keen to get his Transition out there because he fears that if a freely available, low cost form of air transportation doesn’t come along, hundreds of airports across America will close. He’s principally betting that the timing is right – Personal Air Vehicles are inevitable, and to date there has been no spark that has ignited public demand, and one that doubles as a car would supercharge the American aviation industry. Check out what Dietrich has achieved in such short years and see if you can bet against him. He has excelled every time he has competed at anything related to business and formally educated himself in all the business skills necessary to achieve this and no doubt further ambitions. Couple Dietrich’s drive and skill with a viable, high bang-per-buck PAV design and we think this could be big, really big!

Of course it’s not just Carl. Terrafugia was founded by a team of high achieving graduates of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was incorporated earlier this year. Currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Terrafugia will “combine solid aircraft design fundamentals with a focus on creativity and customer service.

The Transition weighs 1,320 pounds, hold two adults and luggage, and it’s all driven by a 100 horsepower engine. It can cruise at an altitude of 3,500 up to 8,000 feet and can fly up to 12,000 feet.

Says Carl: “Common wisdom suggests that any vehicle design combining two disparate modes of transportation — flying and driving — will always result in a compromise that will do each task poorly, and, consequently, be unattractive to the marketplace. Advocates say that the potential benefits of such a vehicle could outweigh the performance compromises. Of course, such a bimodal vehicle presents a tremendous engineering challenge, and the devil is in the details. Only those details of the compromise will determine which school of thought is correct.”

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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